MOGADISHU, May 22 (Xinhua) -- Somalia and two UN agencies have kicked off a five-day vaccination campaign targeting 125,000 children aged between 6 and 59 months from communities of internally displanced persons (IDPs) in Banadir and Afgoye in Mogadishu.
The World Health Organization and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said in a joint statement issued on Sunday evening the campaign will run until May 25, finishing right before the start of Ramadan.
"Internally displaced children, especially those under 5 years of age, are more vulnerable to measles due to the stress of malnutrition," the agencies said, adding that measles is endemic in Somalia but the number of cases is higher in 2017 than in previous years.
Since the beginning of the year, Somalia has recorded 7,694 suspected cases of measles, of which 1989 cases (26 percent) were reported from Banadir region.
The high number of measles cases can be attributed to the pre-famine conditions and drought-driven displacement of populations from rural to urban areas across the country.
"The measles vaccination campaign is being implemented in Danyile, Dharkenley, Hodan, Kaxda and the Afgoye corridor, and will provide children with a dose of vaccine as well as Vitamin A and medication for intestinal worm infection to further improve the health of the children," said the UN agencies.
WHO's support of the campaign includes technical support for microplanning, training, data management, and monitoring and evaluation of campaign activities.
Measles is a highly contagious respiratory infection that causes high fever and rash; it spreads easily in densely populated areas. It commonly affects children who have not been vaccinated.
Children who are malnourished are at greater risk of severe measles. Complications of measles include severe and prolonged diarrhoea, pneumonia, blindness, encephalitis and death. Measles can be prevented through immunization by vaccine.
Severe drought has resulted in the loss of crops, livestock and access to clean water, basic environmental infrastructure and food insecurity.
An estimated 680,000 people have been displaced due to drought since November 2016, moving from rural lands to urban shelters where overcrowding and scant resources have made populations vulnerable to diseases including measles.